Monday, December 31, 2007

The List

Viable game ideas to work on in 2008 (and what needs doing on them). Not all of these will be finished, or even looked at, but this is the current list of stuff I've got in mind. In no particular order:

Hot and Fresh
- Create board
- Create Order cards
- Test rules as-is
- Redesign Order mechanics and End Game conditions
- Revisit rules after testing

- Create list of Tech Upgrades with costs made up of 8 different resources
- Create game board dividing China into probably 16 regions, 2 associated with each resource
- Test rules as-is
- Re-examine Leader actions
- Revisit rules after testing

Time is Money
- Consider theme and scope of game
- This is more a mechanic/structure at the moment, not a complete game. Maybe find a complement game in which to use this system.

- Test again as-is
- Superimpose square grid on Hawaii map
- Revisit rules after testing
- Enter in KublaContest this year?

Investigative/Tabloid Journalism
- Create Lead and Follow-up cards of each category
- Test rules as-is
- Revisit rules after testing

8/7 Central
- Dust off and test again
- Revisit rules after testing
- Redesign auction mechanic

Red Colony
- Consider theme and scope of game
- Write rules

Rodeo Drive
- Test more
- Revisit rules after testing
- Re-examine board placement/scoring

Reading Railroad
- Decide if it's worth pursuing (see if Scott wants to pursue it)
- Write rules
- Prototype and test
Edit: I did pursue this with Scott, I entered it in the KublaCon design contest - it didn't fare too well. It could use finishing touches, but I rather like the game. I think the cross section of people who would be interested in this might be small though.

Clash of the Kingpins
- Re-imagine the game as a non-CCG
- Discuss with Tom Lehmann, see if he's interested in working on it with me (he mentioned he might be, that would be cool)

New "games played" record?

On BGG you can record games played, and I've been faithfully doing so since June 2005. I play a lot of games. By way of example, in the last 2.5 years I played an average of 49 games per month, with some months as low as 14 games played, and some as high as 89. My current record month is Feb. 2007, when I played 89 games. I went to a game convention in Los Angeles which helped, and in that month I played more games than a friend who went to *2* conventions! It's also amusing to me that my record plays occurred in the shortest month of the year.

As of right now (3:48 pm December 31, 2007) I have 89 recorded plays for the month. Some friends are coming over for New Years Eve, so it's likely I'll break the record this month. I'm actually surprised I haven't, considering all the games I've been playing this month!

89+ games in one month - that's about 3 games a day on the average. And I actually spent 6 days this month not playing games! I wonder if I'll ever break 100 plays in one month (without doing something cheesy like playing 30 games of Brain Freeze in a row and counting them all).

Edit: In the end I recorded 95 games played for December 2007!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sedjcon 2007

My Holiday Game Party - affectionately known as SedjCon - doesn't start until tomorrow, and I've already played 8 games! Luke, Steve, Tyler, Mikey (and family), Jeremy, Amelia, John, and Nick came over today and we played

People will be arriving between 10 and 11 am (that's just 6 and a half hours away!) for more fun, games, and BBQ. I'm looking forward to a really fun weekend :)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Word game as a mechanic?

Word games are popular among certain types of people, and are generally maligned by others... likely the people who enjoy word games are people who can spell and have a reasonable vocabulary while those opposed can't or don't.

I happen to have a reasonable vocabulary, and I can spell alright, so I'm not frightened off by word games. I'll play Scrabble, Boggle, Upwords, Anagrams, Buyword, Quiddler, Palabra, etc. anytime anyone wants to... which seems to be almost never. My mom used to go to a Scrabble club, and sometimes I'd go with her - those little old lady's were really good, having memorized 2 and 3 letter word lists, tons of "vowel dumps," and words containing the letter 'Q' (with or without a 'U'). I couldn't match them in word knowledge, but I could stay competitive through tactical tile placement for higher scores (triple letter score on a 'J', going 2 directions for example). Also, they let me cheat sometimes and use their Scrabble dictionary computer thingies.

My friend Gil made a word game called Prolix which is interesting because rather than having to use only the letters you have, you can use whatever word you want and you get rewarded for using the letters on the board. It also has neat gamery stuff like variable point values for the tiles, so there's some incentive to use some of them over others for a better score, and sometimes there's actually incentive not to use certain tiles because it would make them more valuable to the next player. I like Prolix a lot, but it's still a word game, and word games seem to share at least one trait - they're about making words for the sake of making words. You just make words and score points.

Actually, Buyword is a little different. In that game you're trying to buy-low-sell-high, buying letters and selling words, but it still feels like words for words' sake.

I think I'd like to see a different type of word game. One where the word building - which is really just fancy set collection - is a mechanic, but not the end goal. Here are some things I'd like to see in this new type of word game:

  • With word building as a mechanic, someone with good vocabulary and spelling skills should be able to do well based on that
  • There should be tactical play such that a player without a good vocabulary or spelling skills could do well another way.
  • Obviously a player with both language and tactical placement skills should excel at this game.
  • The game should have a point that's not simply "make words to score points." Rather there's some game (or theme) goal, and the way you go about it involves word building as a mechanic.

I've been discussing and considering the possibility of a game which is sort of a marriage of Scrabble and Ticket to Ride or Railroad Tycoon... originally suggested by Doho123 in the BGDF chat room, probably as a joke. At first I was also joking, but the more I think about it, the more different ways I could see a train game with word building as a central mechanic working, and maybe being fun and interesting. If Doho and I can get it to work, I'm sure you'll hear more about it here or at Meeplespeak.

Monday, December 17, 2007

My first rejection letter!

I received an email today stating that Mayfair Games is "unable to accept outside submissions at this time due to a backlog of submissions."

I had sent an email about All For One to a generic email address I found on their website, addressed to "Mayfair game submission contact." I was skeptical it would be read by anyone, really. This response letter is actually a pleasant surprise, and although they are not interested in my game, I now have 2 different specific people's email addresses at Mayfair (the letter was CC'ed to someone), as well as a phone number. So I somehow feel like I've come out ahead :)

To be fair, this is really my 2nd rejection letter. I had sent a letter to Days of Wonder after All For One finished 2nd in the KublaCon design contest last year. They said they'd already done a game loosely themed around the Three Musketeers and they don't like to revisit themes.

Also, though it wasn't a submission perse, Zev from Z-man played a version of All For One about a year ago, and had some comments on it. He did say he would play it again once those comments had been addressed - and now he is


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Time travel is hard!

Khronos won the Advanced Strategy Game of the Year award, so my friend Jeremy was really interested in playing it. I have played Khronos a few times and I like it pretty well, so I picked it up on Friday and we played it at the Ides of Gaming event yesterday.

The verdict? Time travel is hard!

Khronos is a cool game, but it's very difficult to figure out. It's about time travel, so there are bound to be some confusing elements - time traveling in any genre will create some paradox, and in a game there have to be rules to govern that paradox. Many game rules can mirror real life physics, but that's tough for Khronos since the physics of time travel hasn't been worked out just yet....

In short, the game works like this. There are 3 Eras - Age of Might, Age of Faith, and Age of Reason. They occur in that chronological order. Each player has 2 pawns which can travel through time between those 3 eras.

On your turn you can spend cards (of which you have 4) to build buildings. There are 3 types of buildings, Military (orange), Religious (purple), and Civic (blue). When a building is built, it casts a "time shadow" onto later eras - that is to say a building built in the Age of Might is still there in the Age of Faith and the Age of Reason. This part isn't too complicated, you build a building on one board, it appears on all later boards as well, and you put your control marker on it to show you're the one who built it.

There are a few rules as to where you can build a building such as "you can't build on a river except with a blue building," which aren't a big deal, but there are 2 rules which must be followed that are very difficult to wrap your head around and recognize on the board:

The Rule of Dominion: You may not connect 2 domains except with a Civic (blue) building.

A domain is a clump of adjacent buildings. If you want to join any 2 clumps, you can only do so with a blue building, not an orange or a purple one. It sounds simple enough, but on practice it's relatively easy to accidentally break this rule.

The Rule of Hierarchy: The most prestigious Military and Religious buildings in a domain must be unique.

Each type of building has 3 sizes, 1x1, 2x2, 3x3. The larger the building, the "more prestigious" it is. So the Rule of Hierarchy is saying that there can be only 1 building of the largest size in each domain... if there's already 1 2x2 orange building in a domain and no 3x3 orange building in that domain, then you're not allowed to build another 2x2 orange building in it. You can build a 2x2 orange building elsewhere, you can build a 3x3 orange building in that domain, and you can build a 2x2 purple building (as long as there's not already a 2x2 purple and no 3x3 purple there already)... and you can always build whatever size Blue building you want.

You see how confusing that is? There can be only 1 of whatever is currently the biggest orange building in the domain. Same for purple.

Once you have those 2 rules down, you can build buildings and reasonably know what will happen... until someone builds on the Age of Might and the "time shadow" of the building in the Age of Faith would break the Rule of Hierarchy... than what happens? Well, in that case the building just doesn't ripple. Same for the Rule of Dominion. You're allowed to build a building as long as it's a legal play on the board you're building on, and if the ripple of the building would break the rules, it just doesn't ripple.

One more thing... There might be a building on the age of Faith board that isn't also on the age of Might, because it was built later. If someone builds in the same space on the Age of Might board, what happens to the building in the Age of Faith? Well, since there was a building there already (because someone went back in time and built it), they would ever have been able to build the Ag f Faith building, and therefore it comes off the board (as well as it's time shadow in the Age of Reason, of course).

The game lasts 7 rounds, and at the end of your 4th and 7th turns you score your position. You score where your pawns are, so you can only score for your position on 2 of the 3 boards. On the Age of Might board, you score points for all the blue buildings in any domain in which you own the largest Military (orange) building. Same for the Age of Faith, except on that board you score if you one the largest Religious (purple) building. The Age of Reason is altogether different, on that board you don't build buildings at all, but instead you spend blue cards to put cubes on the blue buildings, and you score for the orange and purple buildings in any domain in which you have the most (tied for most is ok) cubes.


So you see, even though there's only 2 rules to the game, the Rule of Hierarchy and the Rule of Dominion, there are all kinds of specifics that govern those rules, and it's tricky to (a) learn them, and (b) follow through with them while also trying to formulate a strategy.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Idea for Hot & Fresh - traffic light operation

First thoughts on Hot & Fresh in quite some time!

In H&F players are driving around town to deliver pizzas, and they are in a hurry because as time goes on their tip (score for delivering) goes down as well. The idea is to (a) be efficient in your path when making deliveries, and (b) press your luck by breaking traffic laws.

One of the main aspects of the game - the original thought that started it in fact - was a system of traffic lights which serve to create a dynamic board. As lights change over time, routes also change. Originally I was going to disallow running a red light, so the available routes on the board would literally change, but when traffic laws entered the game it made sense to allow breaking that rule - at a high price.

I had some grandiose ideas for a gimmicky way to represent the status of the traffic lights at different intersections around the board, as well as making them change at different rates. It was a really neat idea which would take care of everything very simply for the players. It involved a "color wheel" beneath the board with circular strips of color alternating Green/Yellow/Red. Holes in the board at the traffic light locations would reveal the color beneath, and rotating the wheel 1 notch would change some of the lights as the strip of color would either continue, or change color, at that location.

While novel, that particular idea has posed a problem in prototyping. I had come up with a proxy solution using 6 sided dice, 1 per intersection, labeled with color (G/Y/R) and an arrow. At the appropriate time the dice would be flipped in the direction of the arrow and the new face would indicate the state of the light. I didn't love the solution, because (a) you could see whether a yellow light would stay yellow or turn red next time, and (b) I realized each light has 2 states, really - depending on direction of travel (a potential downfall to the color wheel as well).

I came up with another, better proxy - which may well be the best solution for the game. Square tiles that look something like this:

These tiles indicate the state of the light (G/Y/R) in each direction. when it's time to change the lights, you either flip (maintaining orientation) or flip and rotate the tile as indicated, so green changes to yellow, yellow to red, and red to green.

I think it's relatively important that the traffic lights aren't on a strict schedule. I want players to wonder just how long that green light down the street will hold out, or whether the yellow will still be there next turn or if they need to stop at the light. Today I had a further thought as to how to make the lights progress properly but not calculably:

Let's say there are 12 intersections in the game, each labeled 1-6 (2 of each number). When it's time for lights to change (maybe at the end of a round), roll 4d6 (maybe 6). Each intersection who's number comes up advances (flip or flip/rotate as appropriate). The Flip/Rotate side could have a "+/-1" on it, meaning intersection 5 if green/red would advance if at least 1 5 was rolled, whereas that same intersection if yellow/red would advance if a 4, 5, or 6 was rolled.

Thus yellow lights are more likely to change than green lights. Lights have a pretty good chance of changing each time, but there's no guarantee. It might well be that the numbers are off - maybe yellow's too likely to change that way, or maybe there should be more dice rolled, or maybe there should be 9 intersections and d10s should be rolled... but the theory I think is sound.

I've resolved (or will resolve in a couple weeks) to finish this prototype and play it, so I'm sure I'll be posting more about it in the near future!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I've noticed a lot more people reading my blog lately, some due to searches for Magic: the Gathering stuff, and some linking in from - several people check regularly from across the world - Vienna, Netherlands, even as foreign a place as Texas!

I just wanted to say "Hi" to whoever it is that's reading my blog, and encourage you to post a comment telling me at least who you are, if not how you came across my blog or whether you enjoy it.

It's good to know I have an audience :)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Recent Gaming

Yesterday I played games for about 12 hours...

Starting with a 5+ hour 5 player game of Starcraft. We randomly selected teams and I ended up with Aldaris. I started with my base on the 2 Conquest point area of a planet with 4 areas. My other planet option was resource rich, and had much fewer ways in, so I likely should have started there. My plan however was to rush to 15 VPs, and I thought I might be able to protect my base long enough to get there. I did protect it for 2 or 3 rounds, and oddly I didn't build a single unit for 2 or 3 rounds. eventually Jim Raynor successfully took over that base, but I had set up 2 others on the Conquest areas of 2 other planets (1vp apiece). When the game finally got to Phase III, I had 14 Conquest Points - just shy of victory. Jim Raynor ended up fulfilling his Special Victory condition - and surprisingly no one else did.

All game long, the Queen of Blades did nothing but complain that Raynor was going to win, and I maintain that the best way to have kept that from happening would have been for the Queen player to have built a transport adjacent to Raynor (in any of the 3 build orders he did on the planet), which would have put some pressure on Raynor's back door. In some respects that would have been a bad play because it would have put the Zerg in a 2-front war, but then again, without doing so the Zerg player was sure Raynor would win... maybe that's a catch 22. I personally would have liked it if the Zerg had done something to distract the Terran at all, as that might have bought me 1 more turn of 2VP from the conquest area on my home base. As it was I as fighting a 2-front war the entire game.

Oh, and I could note that without an event card that allowed Jim Raynor to place 2 Marines on my home planet for free, I don't think he could have attacked my base for another whole game turn - thus I would have gotten 2 more points and would have won.

I am not a fan of long, so called "epic" games, and Starcraft is no exception.

Next we played a turbo-quick game of Puerto Rico while waiting for John to arrive with pizza. We decided ahead of time to only play until he arrived, then finish out the round and see who's got the most points. Tyler (who played Jim Raynor in Starcraft) adopted his strategy and played for the game to end early. Jeremy and I (the 2 Protoss players from Starcraft) played more as if the game would end normally. I thought we'd be able to get through it. it turns out we didn't and Tyler wrecked us! He had 3 Big Buildings (2 manned) and a total of 36 points. I had 27 and Jeremy had 26.

While we ate pizza, John explained his new game, Amyitis. Jeremy took an Irrigation strategy, earning 2vp for Irrigating, and mooching a couple points off of most of the planting for the irrigation bonus. I only planted 1 tree - I tried going for improved income right off the bat. I thought however that the 3rd level offered an income of 3 instead of 2, so I was disappointed when I bankrupted myself to get the 3rd advance in a particular round, expecting my income to increase, and it didn't. I also tried to pile on the cards which give you more and more VPs as you get them. I got to the 4th level there, not too amazing.

I like the tech tree represented by the cards, but the game felt pretty dry and not terribly fun.

Finally, we played a game of Railroad Tycoon. There was a Service Bounty to Jacksonville available first turn, and I bid 4, willing to take 2 shares. i should have bid 9, to take 3 shares - which is what Tyler did. I decided I didn't want to go with 4 shares for that bonus (though perhaps I should have bid up, as there was also another Service Bounty in the area). I decided instead to try something I've been meaning to try - I took a total of 5 shares to upgrade my train all he way to level 4 in the first round. next round I built on to Jeremy's route and delivered a 3-link delivery. That cost me a 6th share, but I took no more the rest of the game. We play where you get your choice of 2 Tycoon cards, and I declined the "New York to Chicago" tycoon card, thinking Io wouldn't be building near New York. Instead I held onto the "Most Money" tycoon card - a bad idea if I was intending on taking 5 shares on turn 1!

In the end I did complete the New York - Chicago Major Line for 10vp, and made a number of 5 and 6 point deliveries, but I did too much building and not enough delivering, as I had a number of potential deliveries left at the end. Tyler delivered all the cubes on his network except 1. But Jeremy ended up winning with his 2 shares, fewest Shares bonus, and fairly uncontested Northeast network. John got third place with his mid-western track, and his Mobile-Minneapolis Major line for 10vp. I ended up dead last.

That's the third game of Railroad Tycoon in a row where I've done miserably!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Holiday Game Party

I love the holiday season for a number of reasons. things are often laid back at work, people are generally in a holiday mood, and many of my friends are back in town for Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year.

For the past few years I've had a big-ish holiday game party the day after Christmas with board games, a poker tournament, and other assorted fun and games. This year Christmas day falls on a Tuesday, so due to the Tuesdayness of the holiday, this year's game party will be the weekend before.

The party is generally (or was originally) an all night thing, and it feels almost like a mini-convention. This year I'm trying to be just a little bit structured about things. The poker tournament seemed popular before, and I like it as a chance to play poker for a prize without having to put up actual money, so I'm going to do that again. I'm scheduling that for sure. I'm going to try and schedule some Werewolf and/or Time's Up! for late Saturday night, and there's a fun party-ish game that I've never actually tried called 1000 Blank White Cards which I think I'll try and schedule as well. Those are all fun party games for late night... during the day I hope to play more strategy games. Maybe since it's a long party I'll play some longer games I don't normally get to, like Warrior Knights or the new Starcraft board game!

There may well be Guitar Hero and/or Karaoke as well :)

Since it amuses me, there will be prizes for the Poker tournament as well as the following categories:

  • Most games played
  • Most unique games played
  • Most games won
  • Most unique games won
  • Most hardcore - most hours spent at the party!

The first year I kept track of everyone who came, about how long they were there, what games they played, who won each, and I actually did have a prize for the winningest players... myself not included... I have an unfair advantage, being there the whole time while other people might leave and come back. I hope this year it's at least as much fun as previous years :)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Lorwyn Constructed decks

It seems I have visitors!

I'm getting a lot of hits from people searching the net for Llorwyn Constructed decks. Block Constructed was always my favorite format, I like building decks, and I like the openness of building whatever you want but the restriction of having to use cards from one set - which presumably have been designed to go together in some way.

In Llorwyn they seem to have really set that up by overlapping the colors and the tribes - so now you can play a "Black/Blue" deck, or you can play a "Faerie deck" which is Blue with Black, or Blue with white, or you can play a Merfolk deck... the possibilities are many, and there are lots of ways to go about each type of deck. Do I want my U/w deck to be about Merfolk? Or just good U/W control cards? Do I want a WW deck? Or do I want a Kithkin deck (similar, but concentrating more on the tribe stuff)? Do I want to fill my Green/Black deck with Elves which synergize, or just a lot of big creatures and creature D?

I'm not as into Magic as I used to be, so I don't scour the 'net looking for who's playing what, or what decks have won which tournaments. I'd be interested to see what people are building though. A while ago I posted 5 decks I threw together out of the cards I had from the prerelease. Most of them turned out to be pretty bad. One of them though seems very strong and it wouldn't surprise me if a deck like it were starting to win tournaments here and there.

That is if there are tournaments here and there for Lorwyn Block Constructed... I was very disappointed to read that they didn't plan for or test Lorwyn for Block Constructed at all. I guess there will be no "official" LBC tournaments, though I'm sure there will be plenty of local ones. I'm annoyed that such an interesting format is categorically ignored by the entire Magic design team. I guess they were too busy wetting themselves over their big secret that they're changing the block structure to 2 big sets and 2 small sets per year, which are distinct but related. Yipee.

So if you're reading this based on a search for Lorwyn Constructed stuff, leave a comment with a deck idea you're working on - preferably one you think could be a tournament winner or would dominate the format (if there were a format to dominate). My money's on G/b Elves.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

BGG list of games worth publishing

There's a geeklist on BGG about unpublished games that are worth publishing. If you've played All For One, Wizard's Tower, or Terra Prime and think they're worth publishing, please feel free to add it to that list with your comments!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

BGG.con geeklists

I posted a series of geeklists at BGG about my convention experience, broken up day by day. Much of it is a repeat of what I've said here, but if you're interested then go look, thumb, or comment!


Well, both Terra Prime and Wizard's Tower were not accepted into the next round of the Hippodice contest. However the response has been so good on those games that I almost don't care - I'm going to pitch them to Jay at Rio Grande and Zev from Z-man rather than send them to Germany for months.

I do have some friends that made it, most notably Scott's game Sir Reginold's Fabulous Country Estate. It's costing him $117 to ship the game to Germany - I hope that investment turns out to be worth it. the game is a really cool idea!

1 post about Magic and now I'm a resource?

I posted a few initial thoughts about Llorwyn constructed after playing around with the cards a little, then promptly forgot about it. Lately Internet searches for Llorwyn Constructed have been generating hits on my blog left and right!

Well, if you're coming here for Magic info, you're probably in the wrong place. I haven't played much except a little limited Llorwyn, and outside of that I haven't played Magic in forever. But if it helps, here's what my little Llorwyn Constructed experiment taught me:

Play Black/Green. There are tons of good creatures, there's tons of good removal. It's a solid, solid deck I'm sure. If there are Llorwyn Constructed tournaments, I fully expect to see B/G decks at the top tables. And I'm saying this without any real clue as to what the format looks like.

there is one other deck I'd like to try sometime. A deck with the Seige Tower guy, 3cc 0/5 Legend who makes creatures deal damage according to their toughness instead of their power. That along with the Treefolk Harbinger seems pretty freaking amazing, and in general defensy creatures are undercosted, so I'm sure there's other good stuff that can go in the deck. Oh, and of course it's the right colors for Oblivion Ring and Nameless inversion, the 2 best spells in the set. I drafted a Deathrender the other day, and it seems that might be good in he deck (though probably unnecessary) - maybe to replace a Legendary Siege Tower when they kill one, or else to crap out a 5/7 Trample, Vigilance monster once in a while.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

BGG.con report - Events

Puzzle Hunt
The puzzle hunt last year was very cool, but took way? too long. This time was much better time wise, even if the puzzles weren't necessarily as cool. I was recruited onto a team before the con by Stephanie K along with Chris Johnson and Edward Roske. I felt like we had a really good team and I was looking forward to solving puzzles.

We ended up 6th behind some really accomplished puzzle solvers - tanga regulars, people who construct puzzles and crosswords for a living, and generally really sharp people.

The puzzles each indicated some item, which was to be placed into a box and brought to the judges. The highlight of the entire puzzle hunt was when one of the clues indicated "underwear," so I turned to Steph and said "Ok, strip 'em off!" I mean, she was wearing a skirt, obviously easier for her than anyone else, right? She balked at first, and Edward said "C'mon, take one for the team" and then she shrugged and said "Alright" and ran off to the bathroom. At the end of the event I told the guy running it (Dave Arnott, a good friend of Steph's) "That puzzle hunt was a lot of work to get Steph's underwear off!" - something which amused me to no end.

Game Show
For the last 2 years the Game Show has been based on the Family Feud. This time they based it on The Match Game, a show I'm not entirely familiar with. I didn't like it at all though - the questions had multiple answers, and the idea was to match what the panel of 6 said. It seemed so impossible to score. Every time we had 2 options to go with, we'd pick one, and invariably the other would have been right.

I could have done without the Game Show this time.

BGG.con report - Publishers

One of the main things I wanted to do at the convention was connect with Zev from Z-man and Jay from Rio Grande, to show them my games and talk to them about the possibility of publishing them. I've heard that both Zev and Jay are extremely nice and approachable. I had met Zev once at KublaCon over a year ago, but I'd never met Jay.

Zev Shlasinger (Z-Man)
I talked to Zev via email before the convention, and despite his being extremely busy he said he'd try and make time for me to show him All For One and Wizard's Tower, which he said he'd read about a bit on either BGG or BGDF. I thought that was really nice of him, and I intended to take him up on that. In addition I was supposed to be delivering Lost Adventures to him for Steve and Jeff.

I had hoped to play some games with Zev over the course of the weekend. He had one that I saw just as they were packing up which looked really good (and they said it was really good), I was sorry I missed out on that. I saw Zev and Simon Hunt playing a submission that I recognized from the BGDF, so I really would have liked to get into that game, but i was about to start a game of Kingsburg which I was waiting all weekend to play. In retrospect I wish I'd bailed on Kingsburg in order to play Genji with Zev and Simon.

I never got a chance to play All For One with Zev, but I did play a game of Wizard's Tower with him when he had half an hour before the dealer rooms opened on Saturday. Later that day I handed off Lost Adventures, and showed him All For One. He even recognized the board :) I briefly described the differences, but it would be difficult to glean the details without playing. He took the game with him, and hopefully he'll try it soon and I'll see if he likes the changes that have been made since the last time he saw it (which are significant). I advised him to play with 4 first, as that's the best player count. First time players sometimes complain about chaos in the 5 player game.

Finally, I showed him the bits and described Terra Prime. He didn't seem turned off by it, and I think I'll be emailing him about sending that and Wizard's Tower for further consideration.

Jay Tummelson (Rio Grande)
I didn't see Jay all weekend, which disturbed me a little. I guess it wasn't rocket science, he was in the Rio Grande booth all the time. I had a few different friends that know him and they were going to introduce me - I was iffy about just walking up to him out of the blue even though I've heard he's open to that kind of thing. I was telling this to someone on Sunday, and Jay walked nearby, so the person I was talking to called him over and introduced me. It turned out Jay wasn't leaving until Monday, so he said we should get together after the convention officially closed and I could tell him about my games. Later I went to approach him about it, but he was engrossed in conversation with Derk and Aldie. When I mentioned a meeting, he suggested wqe do it later. At the end of the day I was (finally!) playing a game of Cuba, which I had thought would be my favorite game of the con, and Jay came back from dinner and started teaching Cuba at an adjacent table. Sadly, when Cuba was over it was pretty much time to go, and Jay was still in the middle of his game anyway. I told him it was nice to meet him and asked if he didn't mind my emailing him about the games, to which he said that was fine. I'm a little bummed I couldn't manage to meet with him. I guess I'm just not aggressive enough.

I guess I'll be sending him email as well.

BGG.con report - My games

Terra Prime
I believe Terra Prime is about as done as it's going to get except for whatever fine tuning a publisher might require. I wouldn't mind the game end trigger being a little better defined, but I think I actually know how to do that with components - basically an Exploration track which advances whenever a Yellow or Red tile is explored (the Red tiles are worth 2vp to explore, the Yellow tiles aren't). When it hits a certain number (currently 12) then the game is over.

On the one hand, the game has a space/Sci Fi theme, which could be a difficulty for a publisher since at least in the Euro market, I hear Sci Fi doesn't sell well. On the other hand, Race for the Galaxy, Galaxy Trucker, and Starcraft came out this year, which are all Sci Fi themed. Last year there was Space Dealer and Battlestations. Does this mean the market is flooded with space games? I personally don't think so, but then I'm not the publisher. Does Terra Prime provide something that the other space themed games don't? I think it does - a solid, medium/heavy Eurogame that encompasses Exploration, Colonization, Alien combat, and Resource delivery, all in under 2 hours. It has proven to be a good mix of theme and euro-style mechanics. Some will discount the randomness of the die rolls for Alien attacks, but you can better your odds by preparing, and you can play the whole game without rolling a single die. Some will discount the swingy scores as you score 13 or 15 points at a time, which is why I refer to it as medium weight (if it were heavy then people would expect 2 point victories) - its a silly point, but people argue it. From my perspective, if you win by 1 colony, or 1 delivery, or 1 Alien kill, that's a close game, whether it's 4 points, or 14.

I ran 1 game of Terra Prime at BGG.con, and everyone seemed to enjoy it a lot. Here's what some of them had to say:

Gil Hova (IngredientX): I met up with my buddy Seth Jaffee at this point, and we were able to play his prototype. Why this game isn't published yet is a complete mystery to me. It's a space-exploration game with incredibly streamlined mechanics. You'll hear players say, "Oh, it's my turn already?" a lot. Seth puts a lot of thought into his games, and it really shows with this one.

One of the playtesters had a problem with the relative lack of player interaction, and it's true that you can't blow up another player's spaceship (though there are plenty of aliens willing to do that for you). I suppose that's a question of aesthetics. If you think a spaceship game should involve lasering other players into oblivion, then maybe this game isn't for you.

But there's plenty of interaction in picking up resources just before your opponent, or getting VP for having your opponents make deliveries to your colonies. If that sort of thing sounds like it appeals to you, then try this game if you get a chance. Spread the word and get it in print!

John Lopez (Godeke): My son and I then went over to try out one of Seth's prototypes. Terra Prime feels very much "feature complete". The action point system keep things rotating around the table quickly and there appears to be multiple viable paths to victory. Even though each player took different approaches to the game, the final scores seemed quite reasonable and reflected the success with those approaches to the game. With a nice rulebook and components would be an easy sale in our house. Recommended.

Kevin Felker (kevinfelker42): As space explorers on the outskirts of known space from the Terra Prime spacestation, one attempts to win by attaining the most victory points. The closer hexes are green, then yellow, then red. Green is mostly safe, with less hostile aliens and asteroids.

Your ship card has upgradable modules and starts with only a cargo hold/no weapons/no shields, so you'll have to earn some money to make your ship deep space worthy.

First, create some colonies by taking cryogenically frozen people to a planet (or asteroids which produce a unique good for the tech chart). These start producing goods. Pick up and deliver these goods back to Terra Prime to make money (or to go up on the tech chart for some special abilities like cloaking or increased revenue on deliveries). You'll have to weigh the options based on your strategy.

Combat is fairly forgiving as you roll again if your first roll is a failure, stripping of a ship component. There's even a political option to eject goods as an offering if your ship isn't combat worthy.

There are many ways to generate VPs. Money translates into VPs. The further out the created colony is, the more VPs generated. People picking up goods from your colony nets a VP. Being the first to defeat each Red tile nets 2 VPs.
I played the merchant strategy, and VPs were similar to someone on combat/colonize strategy.

Some tweaking is still needed as Seth noted to us in that by the time we got to the furthest Red hexes, the game basically ended.

Player interaction is distilled to being a race since all are on the same side (humanity), but the turns move very fast so there is little downtime.

As I typed this, I realized how multi-leveled this game is and kept bumping up my rating.
It feels like a Runebound in space, except better and more streamlined.

I would like to see this published, curious on how the final artwork would be...quirky/cartoony or serious.

All for One
I ran a game of All For One as well at the con. The reaction of the players this time was less enthusiastic than I'm used to. The thing about All For One is that it's pretty hit or miss. Either you love it or you hate it. The players said they liked it alright, but I got the impression they were just being polite. I still think it's a solid game, and looking at all the feedback I've ever gotten from players at cons, its been overwhelmingly positive. So that's good!

I sent this one home with Zev Shlasinger from Z-Man games, I'm hoping he'll have a chance to play it again. He's played it once before, and he had some comments, some things he would have liked to see addressed. The recent changes will hopefully serve to address those items, as well as improve the game overall.

Blockade Runner
In theory, Blockade Runner will be published next year by Shifting Skies Games, so I've got that to look forward to :) I ran two games of it at the con, and the reactions were positive. There were some comments with some ideas for variants or variations of rules I'm going to look into.

Wizard's Tower
Wizard's Tower was a big hit at the convention. I played it 7 or 8 times with a total of 8 different people, and I think they all liked the game very much. One of them explicitly said that it felt like a real game (or something to that effect).

One of the people I played it with was Zev, who said that abstract games aren't really his thing, personally. I believe he said I could send it to him for further review, so I'll be emailing him about that. I think the production costs would be pretty low for that game, considering it's got fewer (and similar!) bits than Masons or Carolus Magnus.

Brain Freeze
I always like to bring Brain Freeze along to play while waiting. The whole game takes about 1 minute to play, so it's the ultimate filler. On the down side, it requires a chess clock, so it's probably imminently unpublishable. The people who played it this time seemed to like it. Edward and Eduardo played for over 1/2 an hour straight!

I found a better way to handicap myself in that game - before I was giving myself less time, but that wasn't the best handicap, even if only because it meant resetting the clock all the time. This time I tried playing left handed. Now that is a handicap!

Rodeo Drive
The new prototype Rodeo Drive s still in its infancy, but I wanted to see how certain friends liked it, because I know they like Liar's Dice. We played a partial game just to see how the mechanics worked. I couldn't really tell if the players were into it or not. The auction works really well, I'm not sure about the scoring part yet. In any case, I think its a really good start, seeing as only a couple days thought has gone into it so far.

BGG.con report - Other people's games

Lost Adventures (Jeff Warrender and Steve Sisk)
I've mentioned that I like this game a lot. Steve sent me his fancified prototype - it's beautiful! It looks like a professionally produced game! The idea was for me to run a demo of it at BGG.con and then hand it off to Zev from Z-man to take home with him. Well, after nearly leaving it on the airplane in Las Vegas, the game made it safely to the convention, and at about 2pm on Saturday I did run a demo of it. I tried to do so in front of Zev's booth so he'd be able to look in on the game.

I ended up with 5 people wanting to play, and there's really no reason the game shouldn't work with 5, so we gave it a shot. I thought the game was dragging on a long time, so part way through I mentioned that we could stop at the temple phase, and was chastised heavily by the players! They wanted to see the whole thing through - some of them because they'd eschewed going for VPs in the map phase in order to prepare for the Temple, and some because they were just enjoying the game! All told, including the rules, the game took a little over 3 hours in the end. It felt longer to me, but the clock doesn't lie. That's pretty good for a 5 player game, all new players, in a convention atmosphere, and including the rules explanation!

The best news is that everyone had a really good time. Some of the players wanted to play it again right away (sadly, we never did due to time constraints). There were 2 episodes that were particularly exciting and noteworthy:

First, Jennifer dug up a relic, and used her free action to run to one of the cities it could be delivered in (lest it be stolen by John). She failed the challenge though, and was dragged all the way to Peking! This might have been a big enough deterrent to John, as he was across the board completely. But no, John spent his entire turn and every card in his hand to travel to Peking, pass the challenge there, fight for the relic (with 2 cards, Jennifer only had 1 left, so automatic win), use the free action to move to Bangkok, pass the challenge there, and finally deliver the relic. In that last challenge there was a 1 in 3 chance he would have failed, been dragged back to Peking, where Jennifer could have stolen the relic back and delivered it herself!

Later, on her very last turn of the game, Jennifer had 2 choices - she could reach either the grail room and then a Font, or she could reach John - who had already been to the grail room, and who had 2 checks in the True Grail category (potentially 50-50 info on the true grail) and then still reach the Font. Some players suggested she steal the artifact from John, since it was 50-50, and it would serve him right for stealing a relic from her... then someone pointed out that John never actually looked at the clue for the grail, meaning he only had a 1-in-6 chance of having the right one. The better odds were with the grail room (Jennifer knew exactly which grail was the right one). So going for VPs rather than retribution, and to stop the Nazis from finding the grail if nothing else, Jennifer moved to the grail room, grabbed the correct grail, then moved to a font and tested it, collecting 4vp. It wasn't enough to win, but it put her in 2nd or 3rd place, and it kept the world safe from Nazis.

As an "experience game" I think it's fair to say that Lost Adventures succeeds. Here's what some of
the players had to say about the game in their BGG.con reports:

Lynette Jagoda (Meerkat): Best gaming session. Proto-type play session for "Lost Adventures" and the total hilarity that sprang from one of the other players noting that rule that "reading" an artifact like a scroll took an extra action point, thus one could carry it around "not looking" at it was silly. "Oh I found this awesome scroll I have been looking for for weeks, but I don't think I'll read it just now". It is hard to convey the moment in words, but really we were in stiches, and we ended up in stitches again every time in the game a new artifact was found after this point.

John Lopez (Godeke): Lost Adventures (which I was pretty sure was in the database, but I'm not finding) is another prototype... but one *heck* of a prototype it is. The components are almost production quality. The secret information is hidden cleverly and the decoding of that information works as advertised. The game caused two fits of pretty long lasting hysterics. It isn't a traditional Eurogame and probably isn't all that balanced, but it feels like it would make an *excellent* family game that favors "experience" over "gameplay". It was a bit long with five players playing a four player game, but quite good. Recommended for family gaming, if it ever finds a publisher.

Homesteaders (Alex Rockwell)
I always enjoy this game, and the game of it played at BGG.con was no exception. Homesteaders is a heavier game, along the lines of Puerto Rico or Caylus in complexity. There are a bunch of different buildings, and you auction off the right to build one type or another, then you choose which building of that type you want to build. The buildings have a resource cost, and they have some income and or special abilities. There are 9 different resources to manage including cubes, cash, actions, and debt. Here are some comments from last weekends' players:

John Lopez: Another prototype, this combines Amun-Re's action track system with the Caylus bonus track and Puerto Rico's building purchases to make a very clever "victory point engine" game. Each part of the game flows smoothly until the end where the final points can be obtained. Here you may find yourself selling goods to the bank and rebuying them repeatedly to turn action tokens into victory points. It would seem that simply calling each unused action token a victory point would work, but you can actually make a profit in these transactions and thus obtain gold (which is also a victory point). A minor issue, but after the remainder of the game flowing so smoothly, it was jarring.

This may have been the first clue that I'm burned out of the more abstracted out victory point engine games: while enjoyable, I preferred Terra Prime for the "fun factor" during the game. This would probably have more replay value, but would also very easily allow an experienced player to run away with the game and never look back. Recommended for experienced VP engine builders.

Michael Cooper: Later Thursday evening, I wandered back into the secondary game room and was talked into playing Homesteaders. I'm not real good at evaluating auction games on first plays, as I usually have no idea what value to place on certain things, and it showed in my final score. I'd play this again once it was published, but I don't think I'd buy it.

Gil Hova: I wanted to try this game because I know that its designer is a huge Puerto Rico nut, and I wanted to see what kind of game he'd design if he had his druthers. This is a wonderful auction resource management game.

It's not the most original thing you'll ever play, as it plays like a direct cross between Puerto Rico and Amun-Re. And it's also overwhelming when you first play it, because the number of options available to you are quite large. But after your first game, you'll start to see its depth and charm.

The game isn't without its rough edges. Most notably, the last round seems a little fiddly, as you can convert some resources back and forth an awful lot of times, and it seems more of an exercise in point optimization than a game. But that's nothing that can't be tightened up.

Salvage (Dan Manfredini)
I played a quick (30 minute) game by Dan Manfredini (GameBot) called Salvage, which involved buying various tiles, and paying with resource cards obtained via card drafting, like MtG booster drafting or like Notre Dame or Fairy Tale. To me there didn't seem to be a lot to it. Then again, it's a 30 minute filler-type game. I'm not a big fan of that type of game usually, so I'm not too surprised it wasn't my thing. It certainly worked though, there were 4 types of tiles you could buy, and they each had their costs and effects. In discussing it afterward I started seeing some stuff I'd think about if I were to play it again.

Suitcases (some guy)
Mike Nickoloff had a prototype by someone I don't know called Suitcases. He was looking for any kind of feedback on the game. It was a Take That! style 2 player card game where you play suitcases of various size in front of you, and pack items into them. The items are worth positive or negative points and also have a 'size' number. Any case that isn't entirely full (it's capacity not filled by the size of the items in it) is considered "rattling" and if you pack it away you lose all of the contents (no score for that one). There are also "Magic suitcases" which flip the sign on everything inside them. SO you can play these Magic suitcases on your opponent when they have a big score coming, or you can put negative stuff in their cases, or positive stuff in your case.

It really wasn't very good. We tried pretty hard to find any redeeming qualities at all. I actually liked the concept of the sizes and fitting things into the cases, but past that there was nothing really good to be said about the game as far as I could tell. On the plane coming home I thought abut what I might do differently if I tried to make a game about that, and I came up with a much more Euro-style game which might actually be alright. The theme of "packing bags for a trip" isn't amazing though.

Prolix (Gil Hova)
I first played Prolix at the Spielbany thing in New York, and I was excited to play it again at BGG.con. I enjoy this word game very much - I like word games in general, and this one has some nice tactical gamery involved, as well as flexibility for using whatever word comes to mind. In Prolix there are some letters on the board, and you can use whatever word you want, and you score for the letters you use that are on the board. So the more you use the better. The letters have a point value depending on which column they are in on the board, and some of the more rare letters also have a bonus point or two on them. I commented during the game that I was averaging 13 points per word, and another player said their largest score was about that, so I guess I was doing well :) I interrupted maybe 1 time too many, and actually had to reduce my score a bit because of it. The interrupt system is very cool, if you see a word on another player's turn, you're allowed to interrupt them and take it. Each time you do that after the first, you get 1 fewer points than the last time (-1, -2, -3...) so after a while it had batter be a really good word if you're going to come out ahead. you only get to count 5 words, and you MUST count your interrupts first.

Prolix is excellent and I hope it gets published ASAP so I can get my own copy!

Wag the Wolf (Gil Hova)
Gil showed me Wag the Wolf when I was in New York, and gave me the rundown on it. I didn't have time to play, but I was interested to hear about it. The basic idea is that you auction for media outlets, you run money through the outlets to get Media Points, and you "cry wolf" with the outlets to get income - which means you 'turn them off' so you can't use them for media points anymore, and instead you get some money and VPs. For his birthday, Gil's friend coded an online implementation of the game which is quite good, and I've been playing Wag the Wolf online for a little while now. At first I thought it was pretty 1 directional, but the more I played it the more I found to like. This isn't the best game ever by any means, but I'm very much enjoying playing it online. There's not much that is wrong with the game, just that some people will want more variety in strategic options. I was happy to play this in real life at the convention.

BGG.con report - Old Standbys

Puerto Rico
I played Puerto Rico twice at the con, because Brian hadn't played it and it's one of the classic games that I thought he should play because it's generally considered the best multiplayer strategy game, ever. The first game was me, 1 newbie, 2 that haven't played much, and 1 other person who'd really played before. That person did something unusual, going for turn 2 Coffee, which paid off for him pretty well. He ended up in second (to me).

The second game I played of Puerto Rico was cool because I got to see how much Brian had learned and understood the game already. He had a couple of inspired plays, and only 1 or 2 questionable ones. I believe he finished 2nd in the 2nd game, but I may be misremembering.

I feel like a lot of people, at least in my game club, don't play enough Puerto Rico. Either because they played it a lot when it came out, or on BSW, or they play it every couple of months and thats enough for them. I'd like to see people around here play this more often and actually get good at it. I'm trying to push that at my game club.

Railroad Tycoon
I really like this game, more than I let on sometimes. I thought Brian would like it, so I suggested we play it. We ended up playing a 5 player game where I was the only one who'd played before. It was an exciting and close game, and I made a fatal mistake that cost me any hope of winning the game. It was cool to see the top 2 scores, only 2 points apart, 1 player only having 3 shares of stock and the other having 13! Brian picked this one up quickly, and except for a few shares he may not have needed, he played a great game.

I taught this one other time during the convention as well.

Times Up!
This is my favorite party game, and its fun to play with Steph and Chris and their friends from L.A. I was on Chris' team with a guy named Kevin. I think we ended up 2nd or 3rd. Steph's team won, as usual.

Guitar Hero
Steph talked Aldie into bringing his Xbox and Guitar Hero 3 - so I finally got to play this. I'm not all that great at Guitar Hero. I have 1 and 2 for playstation, and I play on Hard and do OK. Steph plays on Expert and kicks ass. She humored me with a Pro Face Off (Freebird on Hard), and did worse than usual while she did better than usual.

BGG.con report - Essen Releases

Pretty good, would like to play it more. I worry that often it will come don to who got the most powerful card combination, but then there are so many combinations that there's probably not a big difference in them. I definitely want to play more of this, as soon as the English version comes out (thanks Z-man!)

I was very, very excited about Cuba. I went into the con fully expecting Cuba to be my new favorite game. People compare it to Puerto Rico, Caylus, Pillars of the Earth - three of my very favorite games - What more could I hope for?!?

When I played Cuba I was on 30 hours without sleep, and only about 4 hours of sleep before that, and 3 or 4 hours the 3 nights before that... so maybe I wasn't at maximum capacity. I'll certainly play the game again, and I'm kind of sorry I didn't buy it at the con so I could play it this weekend, but I think I may have to reconsider crowning it my new favorite game.

I thought I'd really love this one. It played pretty much like I thought, and I did like the game... but not quite as much as I'd hoped. I thought there'd be more to the decision to split up your roll - but there's really not. Often you get 3 resources if you place them all together, and 2 + 1 if you place them separately. It seemed pretty equivalent, all the rewards felt sort of samey-same. Most of the time you pretty much just want to place the dice on the highest number you can.

I'd still like to play this some more, and I might buy it just so I can, but I'm a tad disappointed.

Race for the Galaxy
I wasn't sure if I'd like this one or not. I'd heard some good things, and while I don't like San Juan, I like the idea behind it. The thing that made me really want to try this game was based on this paragraph:

Reverse reverse psychology
The game can get somewhat boring if each player just plays the action that they themselves want to execute. It gets a lot more interesting if you start paying attention to what other players are going to do. If you suspect some other player is going to Settle, and if you do not need the special bonus, you may be better off selecting some other action. Of course, this can lead to situations where two players both expect the other to take a certain action, resulting in that action not being picked at all.

In this review. I tried the game and was a little confused by the iconography at the outset, but I figured that out quickly enough. I would like to play this game a bunch more times to get good at it, but I certainly like it much better than San Juan - to which it's often compared. I'm not sure it's "all that" though.

Wurfel Bingo
My friend picked this up at Essen for relatively cheap. In the box there's 2d6 and some dry erase scoreboards and markers, which is all you're paying for. You could play this with a paper and pencil if you wanted to - which we did, at a restaurant while waiting for food. It's cool for a filler, sorta like Take it Easy or Take it to the Limit. I thought I was doing terribly, but ended up winning the game I played. I don't know that I'd pay money for this game, but it's a fun game!

Someone described this as being a bit like Medici. I guess the drawing mechanic is similar to that in some ways. It was an alright game, but it needed to be longer - I felt like it ended just as I was building my score up.

So all in all the games I was looking forward to were something of a disappointment. They were all decent, but not amazing. I guess Agricola wins the prize for "best new game I'm interested in," but this time that's not saying all that much. Hey, at least this time I got to play all the things I went to the con intending to play!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

BGG.con report - outline

I went to BGG.con last week, and had a great time. I plan on expounding on this topic, but I'd like to break it up into multiple posts. This post will serve as a sort of outline for that.

Essen releases:
Race for the Galaxy x2
Wurfel Bingo x2

Old Standbys:
Puerto Rico x2
Railroad Tycoon
Guitar Hero
Times Up!

My Prototypes:
Terra Prime
All for One
Blockade Runner x2
Wizard's Tower xlots
Brain Freeze
Rodeo Drive

Other people's prototypes:
Lost Adventures (Jeff Warrender and Steve Sisk)
Homesteaders (Alex Rockwell)
Salvage (Dan Manfredini)
Suitcases (some guy)
Prolix (Gil Hova)
Wag the Wolf (Gil Hova)

Puzzle Hunt
Game Show

Zev (Z-Man)
Jay (Rio Grande)

I managed to not play any Werewolf this time out. I was a little disappointed about that.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

2-player Rodeo "Test Drive" (heh)

I played Rodeo Drive with Eric tonight, and we both agreed that the game would be better with more than 2 players. However it certainly worked with 2, and it worked better than it had before because I incorporated all the things that came up in earlier playtests.

The game lasted just over an hour not including the rules, which was only about 5 minutes more. It seems the 3 player game took about that long, and that stands to reason because there are about the same number of bids going on in the auctions in 2 or 3 player. In 2 player we used 4 bid tokens each (bidding on 4 of the 6 auctions), while in a 3 player game we'd use 3 each. Actually, last time we used 2 each, but we should definitely make that 3 - there absolutely needs to be more bid tokens than there are auctions in order to make people contest things.

Eric liked the game. It went well, the updated privileges were good, the scoring was alright, the auction mechanic still works fine. All in all a good playtest.

The main thing I'd like to work on for the game is the specifics of the scoring system/incentive for players to care which auction they are winning. I definitely think there needs to be a geographic element that ignores the colored regions, in order to relate the different auctions to each other. I think the best idea might involve "groups" rather than chains of buildings in a row. That's the direction I'm going to explore next.

The actual rules of the game are solid, just tweaking the scoring to drive decisions - I think this game might be ready for more widespread playtesting soon!

Monday, November 12, 2007

To Dallas for BGG.con!

Wednesday morning I leave for Dallas for BGG.con, 4 days of gaming goodness! I'm actually trying to stretch that out a bit by going the day before it actually starts, and leaving the day after it ends (though that was mostly because of plane tickets).

As for game playing, I'm really looking forward to playing the following new games:

Race for the Galaxy

...and I know for a fact I'll have access to a copy of Agricola, because Stephanie loves it and is bringing her copy. I had made a geeklist at BGG in which I listed a number of new games I was interested in, but the 4 above are my tier 1 choices.

In addition, I've set up a sign up list for playing prototypes at the convention. I've got a number of people signed up to play:

Terra Prime
Blockade Runner
Lost Adventures

And some other designers have posted games to the list as well, such as IngredientX (Gil Hova) and his cool word game Prolix, as well as his media game Wag the Wolf (which I've been playing online, and it's pretty cool).

Jeff and Steve sent me a sweet prototype of Lost Adventures to use at the con, and then leave with Zev Shlasinger for consideration. Zev also said he'd try and make time for me to show him All For One and Wizard's Tower. That's pretty exciting! Jay Tummelson will be there, and I'm going to try and show some of my stuff to him as well.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Rodeo Drive - first playtest

Without saying too much about the game...

We had a full length 3-player test of the "top secret" Rodeo Drive tonight, and it went pretty much the way I thought it would. The auction mechanic worked well, though it lacked some tension - easily solved by giving each player an additional bidding token. The same thing happened in our initial 2-player test, not enough bids to make it interesting. So in 2-player each player will be placing 4 bids on the 6 auctions, in 3-player there will be 3 bids per player, and in 4 player there will be 2 bids. If the game works with 5 players each player will also get 2 bids. It may simply not be a 6-player game, or maybe 6 players with 1 bid each (maybe 2?) would work out. Not sure about that.

The least satisfying thing about the game was that the Privileges were uninteresting and for the most part nobody used them. I figured that would happen, because their power level was low in comparison to the point value of playing the tile to the board. We're going to try increasing the power of the privileges as well as decreasing the VP rewards to bring them more into balance.

We're also going to try a variation on how tiles come up for auction (though the game will not change much from that), and another way to consider the "chain" scoring.

What worked really well was the cool auction mechanic (as expected), the diminishing return for winning the same auction over and over, and I think the chain scoring worked well that game also, but we're going to try another version to see how it feels.

Hopefully soon I'll be able to talk about the game more, when more stuff is finalized and the game is closer to being "done."

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I'd like to design a "bigger" game

I've noticed that all the games I've designed or worked on are "quick fillers" or "medium weight" games. I like to play medium weight games, so it stands to reason that my designs might fall into that category. But I found myself thinking recently that I'd really like to make a game that is heavier and deeper.

I'm not really sure how to go about that. A friend of mine designed Homesteaders, which I find to be pretty deep, lots of emergent strategy. Not really any luck element. That's a really good game, and it's the kind of thing I'm talking about - but I didn't have anything to do with that. I wasn't even involved in playtesting until the game was already mostly finished.

I don't know if any of my current ideas would make for a good heavy game or not - my guess is no, as they are all from before I started thinking about it, and therefore were probably conceived with a 1 hour time frame and "middle weight" in mind. Maybe the Time = Money idea could be interesting enough to warrant a heavyweight game built around it.

I'll have to give it some thought and figure out what exactly I mean by "bigger" or "deeper" or "heavy weight as opposed to medium weight" - then decide how to go about it.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

And they're off!

Earlier today John submitted Wizard's Tower to Hippodice via email, and just moments ago I submitted Terra Prime as well... now to wait about 3 weeks and see if they request a prototype or not!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Terra Prime rules update

I've updated the rules for Terra Prime. I'm going to submit this version to Hippodice this week. I have played it a couple times recently, and I think it's in really good shape!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Terra Prime Playtests

I got another couple playtests of Terra Prime the last couple Thursdays at Hat's as well as last Saturday at the Ides of Gaming event. As I mentioned previously, I had some changes I wanted to try. I did put them into effect for the last couple games. I'm happy with how they went. Here they are again, with my current thoughts on them:

1. Swap cargo upgrades. I tried this, and I guess it seems reasonable, I'm concerned that the 2nd upgrade isn't desirable. I might consider the first upgrade costing 3 cubes and the second costing 2 - it sounds odd, but might work out allright.

Edit: After discussing the situation with Sebastian, I think there's a better solution. I will try leaving the extra $/delivery upgrade as the "2nd" upgrade, and I will change the holds a bit. No more "wilds", each hold will have a single side and a double side. When you install one, you install it single side up. The reverse side is accessible when you purchase the 'first' upgrade. The back will have the same colored slot as the front, plus a slot that can hold G/U (or maybe Y/G/U).

Thus, after the upgrade, a Red Cargo tile could hold RG or RU (or maybe RY) and a Yellow Cargo tile could hold YU, YG (or maybe YY). There would also be a U/G hod which would have double U/G on the reverse (or maybe U/G and U/G/Y).

I think this does more what I wanted the colored holds to do, which is differentiate which goods you can carry. Cryo Chambers will be defined as requireg any double-slot hold (so your initial UG hold can carry one, or any hold after upgrading can carry one).

Also, I'm going to try the upgrades as 6 different upgrades, not a linear progression.

2. Initial cargo hold carries 2 cubes or 1 Cryo Chamber. I like this a lot, and I think it's important. I want players to have to buy a cargo hold if they want to carry Yellow or Red cubes.

3. Change second cargo upgrade to "flip over their cargo hold tiles at will". Actually, now that I've considered the cargo hold thing above, the upgrade will be that you use the double side (flip over any holds you have, install any new ones with the double side up).

4. Bonus points for tiles are screwy. I don't know, maybe I'll leave them for now, and see if Delivering is earning too many points or something.

5. The Yellow tile game end trigger is still kinda lame. I like the new version, 12 tiles between Yellow and Red. I'd like to find a better way to represent that. It might involve more components, like chits you take when you explore or something.

6. Make colors (of cargo holds) scarce. See above, I'll make a couple of each, not sure how scarce they ought to be. I'm thinking 2 Yellow, 2 Red, and 2 Green/Blue, is that too few? Maybe 3 Yellow for 5p. I wonder if I need to provide enough holds so that multiple people can buy 2 if they want. most people don't, but maybe that's good, buying a second could jack a player out of a hold... is that good or bad? I guess I could make plenty of G/U holds, so the only copetition os for Y and R.

I am excited about these new ideas. I think I'll go home and update my prototype (and rules!) maybe play it this weekend.

Wizard's Tower box rendering

I got a notification at BGG that someone posted a picture for Wizard's Tower. I figured John must have been playing with his 1984 digital camera again... but I was wrong! Chris D'Andrea from North Carolina was

"reading your great posts on Pillars of the Earth (I just bought it and was reading your strategies) and went to your designer page. I saw that you had box images and figured I would make a 3d render of it for the game. The artwork is very nice and looks great on a box. I am looking forward to seeing how your game turns out."

I think it looks pretty sweet. Thanks Chris!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A really good session report on BGG

I'd like to draw attention to this session report on BGG about the new game Cuba.

First off, I really like session reports like that for games I'm interested in but haven't played. They really give me a good feel for what the game is like. Second, Cuba sounds more and more amazing every time I read about it!

Protecting intellectual property

Intellectual property and the protection thereof is not the kind of thing I put a lot of thought into. However for the last day or so I've been thinking about it a lot. My friend Bo, who I sometimes work on games with, owns a company called Shifting Skies Games. As such he views Game Design a bit differently than I do, and than pretty much anyone I've talked to about it. that's because the designers I know are doing it as a hobby, not as a profession, and they're not inextricably tied to the publishing end of things as Bo is.

My personal process of designing and developing a game involves a lot of open information. I do my best work in the Board Game Designers Forum chat room, bouncing ideas off of people and listening to what they have to say, offering my own insight and suggestions on their projects, and generally just brainstorming. I'm not published at this time, but I think I'm relatively good at what I do (at least some of the time).

The problem is, from a "game design as a profession" point of view, my process is technically unprofessional. Even in the low stakes world of hobbyist board game design, intellectual property has value, and to be as cavalier as I am about sharing intimate details of my game designs with anyone who's willing to listen could cause legal or financial nightmares if and when the game ever does get published, even if only in theory.

My personal philosophy is that it's not worth the effort to steal someone else's game idea, because ideas are a dime a dozen - the hard part is the execution. Also, I don't worry about someone claiming credit on a game I eventually get published because first off, I'm imminently fair about credit where credit is due (or I try to be), and secondly I don't think it's worth anybody's time to sue me over that kind of thing, when it would cost more to arbitrate than either party stands to make.

But then, I'm not counting on board game design to buy my groceries. I have a job as an Engineer and I make decent money at it. One could argue that nobody should try to survive solely on amateur game design, and to an extent that's true... but then there wouldn't be Z-man Games and Rio Grande, and our hobby would die out.

The long and short of this post is that I'm a bit conflicted about whether to carry on the way I always have, or whether to take on a more protective philosophy. I've always considered that the guarded approach is actually bad for the state of game design. Nothing occurs in a vacuum, and in my personal opinion games in general would be better if designers all sort of worked together on them. the problem with that kind of thinking is "who owns the idea?" and therefore "who gets paid when it gets published?"

In the end I believe I will continue working the way I work (open information) with regard to my own designs, but when working on games with Bo I will need to keep things under wraps until the game is at least ready to be playtested. Bo and I make a pretty good team, and we've had a lot of good discussions about various games, It's unfortunate that I need to either work with Bo or work the way I'm used to, and not both.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Building a game based on a core mechanic...

[Originally written 10/22/07, never posted, now edited]
... that is itself another, simpler game.

Zooloretto won the Spiel de Jars a few years ago, it's a game built on the mechanic that is the game Coloretto. I mentioned in a previous post (in another forum) some thoughts on a game built on the mechanic in Reiner Kinizia's eXXtra, a die rolling mechanic which makes for a neat mini-game in itself, but could perhaps be used in a bigger game.

I've thought before that it might be interesting to build a game out of the mechanic of Liar's Dice, which is my favorite bluffing game. I mentioned it to Bo one night, and we talked about it and brainstormed and came up with some ideas as to how to build a game based on Liar's Dice. In the end, we never finished any co-design using this mechanism.

Because I was going to work on it with Bo, and he is particular about intellectual property and online posts, I had respectfully withheld the ideas as to structure of the game based on Liar's Dice. I have recently revisited the idea, and decided to cull anything that Bo had contributed and use only the parts of my own design and create my own game using this Bluff Auction mechanism. As such there have been many posts in my blog recently on the subject of my own re-themed and re-structured Bluff Auction game.

I had this post from 3.5 years ago written but not published, and I don't like keeping those around - so I have edited it, updated it, and published it for posterity - feel free to ignore.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Prototypes at BGG.con

A lot of people seem to be surfing to my blog lately from this thread at BGG. It's true, I'll have a copy (maybe 2!) of Jeff and Steve's Lost Adventures game with me at the convention. I'll also have a number of other prototypes of games designed by myself or my friends - I started a sign-up list at BGG for people interested in checking them out.

The games I'll be bringing are...

  • Lost Adventures by Jeff Warrender and Steve Sisk
  • Terra Prime by Seth Jaffee
  • All For One by Seth Jaffee and David Brain
  • Blockade Runner by Seth Jaffee and Boyan Radakovich
  • Acts of the Disciples by Jeff Warrender
  • Homesteaders by Alex Rockwell
  • Wizard's Tower by John Heder and Seth Jaffee

Friday, October 19, 2007

Magic: the Gathering - Lorwyn Constructed follow-up post

The last deck I wanted to mention is probably my favorite of the decks I made, but it's probably actually the second best of the bunch - the Green/Black deck is a powerhouse. The last deck is Blue/black Faeries, with flash creatures and counterspells.

All blue ever needed was creatures they could play at the end of their opponent's turn, rather than having to commit resources to during their own turn. That way they can always have all their mana open for tricks and countermagic, and if they don't need it then they can put a creature in play. And in the case of Faeries, one of these creatures actually counters a spell when it comes into play. Another acts as a Vampiric Tutor, bringing any Faerie card to the top of the deck. These creatures stick around and attack as well, so no need to fill your deck with boring "win conditions" that don't actually do anything...

The down side to the Faeries is that they are fragile, and the deck has little or no ways to remove more than 1 creature or draw more cards. The only card advantage that can be gained is by countering a spell with the Spellstutter Sprite, or hard casting a Shriekmaw (which of course means tapping land on your own turn). My build does use Wydwen, the Biting Gale, a 3/3 flying faerie which can bounce to my hand for BU and a life, which could create card advantage as well.

I still think the deck is good, but it needs a little something to gain card advantage, or to deal with a dangerous permanent that gets past a counterspell. I believe there's a 4cc creature that has a control magic effect... I don't think it's a faerie but it might be good enough anyway. There's an expensive creature (6cc) with Evoke (1UU) which bounces a creature when it comes into play, but like Shriekmaw it hasn't got Flash.

Shriekmaw is one of the better cards in the set I think, as it's in the same color as one of the very best cards in the set (Nameless Inversion), it can be cast for 2 so it means early creature D vs crazy things like 2cc 3/3 Elves, and later it can come into play and stay there, which in some games can make a huge difference.

There exists a black faerie which costs 3 for a 1/1 flier, and when it comes into play it makes your opponent discard a card. The effect is interesting, but the cost and power/toughness are very unexciting. There's also a 1cc black faerie which is 1/1, flies, and can't block. A 1cc faerie is attractive because it can lead into a turn 2 Stuttersprite, but it means playing enough Swamps to reliably cast it on turn 1.

I can't figure out what in the deck needs to come out to make way for better things, and I also can't quite figure out what would be significantly better. Here's the list as it stands... I think there might be too much land in the deck with the Twigs in there, but I'd hate to not draw enough:

15 Island (2 should be Secluded Glenns)
8 Swamp (1 should be a Secluded Glenn)
1 Secluded Glenn (obviously 3 more go in)
4 Wanderer's Twig
4 Ponder
3 Broken Ambition
4 Nameless Inversion
4 Spellstutter Sprite
2 Familiar's Ruse
4 Faerie Trickery
3 Pestermite (maybe fewer)
1 Scion of Oona (should be more for sure)
3 Faerie Harbinger
1 Wydwen, the Biting Gale
3 Shriekmaw

After playing a few games with people using the 5 decks I made, I have come to the conclusion that I have indeed been overvaluing Moonglove Extract. I took them out of the Elf deck, as well as the Final Revel, and replaced them with Twigs. I'm not sure if I'm sold on the twigs or not, but they still seem like a fine idea in theory.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Terra Prime (revisited) (again)

I got a chance to play a 4 player game of Terra Prime tonight. The rules explanation went well, and the game plus rules took about 1 hour 15 minutes - which is probably a little quick. The game did seem to end abruptly as we ended up exploring all of the Yellow tiles quickly while no one was doing a lot of delivering.

Here are the things I'm going to change for next time:

1. Swap cargo upgrades. Currently the first cargo upgrade is one that increases (doubles) the capacity of 'wild' cargo holds (which can hold any type of good, including a Cryo Chamber). The second upgrade is an extra 10 credits (1 unit) per delivery. I think those are backwards, and I think holding 2 Cryos per tile is too much. I'm going to switch them so that the first upgrade is the extra money per delivery, and the second one increases carrying capacity.

2. I'd like to see the initial cargo hold 2 cubes or 1 Cryo Chamber. I think the best way to represent that is to print the pre-printed one sorta like the other boxes on the ship, with a big diagonal line through it. On one side it will show a green and a blue cube, and on the other it will show a single 'wild' cube. Thus, a player from the outset can carry either a blue and a green cube, or a Cryo chamber, but not both at the same time.

3. While I'm adjusting how the Cargo Holds work, the second upgrade will be changed to simply allow players to flip over their cargo hold tiles at will. The front side has 2 boxes of specific color and the back has a single 'wild' box. Cryo Chambers only go in 'wild' boxes. Making this change to the upgrade means that the upgrade allows you to increase your Cryo carrying capacity as well as your cube carrying capacity rather than having to choose when you buy your hold. I think this needs to be the second upgrade, because as a first upgrade it seems that all players will just buy a 'wild' hold, then immediately get the upgrade to increase the capacity. AS a second upgrade I hope it'll introduce more of a decision as to what you want to do with your cargo holds. My concern is that it might not be a good enough benefit to warrant getting that second upgrade. I guess I'll have to wait and see.

4. Bonus points for tiles are screwy. I thought I had decided that the bonus should be X-1, where X is the number of cubes on the tile, but they appear to be X on the tiles I have. I may reduce that before I demo the game at BGG.con

5. The Yellow tile game end trigger is still kinda lame. The next idea to try is to mix in some Red tiles into that game end trigger. I think if the trigger is something like 12 Yellow/Red tiles total, then it could encourage exploring Red tiles more, and could make the game end trigger a little nicer. It means at least 3 Red tiles MUST be explored, and it's also possible to trigger the endgame with several red tiles explored and not all the Yellow tiles explored.

6. Make colors (of cargo holds) scarce: I'd like to eventually reduce the number and types of available cargo holds so that they're not all available all the time to all players. If there's only, say, one of each combination, then that might make for more player differentiation. It might also make for a more interesting cargo hold purchase in the early game.

These are the only changes I'm going to make at this time, I hope to test with those changes really soon. I want to send the rulebook off to Hippodice ASAP.

This post is about Magic: the Gathering. Feel free to skip it.

Lorwyn Constructed thoughts

I've been thinking a lot about Magic lately, having had a lot of fun playing in these Lorwyn tournaments. I mentioned last post that I made maybe 5 different decks for Lorwyn Constructed - a format that may never really exist in the tournament environment, at least not until the next set comes out. In fact, Aaron Forsythe of WotC research and Development (I think, maybe it was someone else) said something to the effect of "Lorwyn wasn't designed or tested to be played in Block Constructed all by itself" - which, if its true, I think is a huge shame. My favorite format was always Block Constructed.

The format that is relevant at the moment is probably Lorwyn Standard, which is the new Type II, after Lorwyn rotates in. State Championships will be that format, and they're coming up like this or next weekend. I think this weekend is too soon for me, but if it's next weekend I may consider going to States... but if that's the case I'll have to get some cards to supplement the Lorwyn cards I have made decks out of, and I should probably do my due diligence and look at which cards are legal and etc.

I'd much rather just take my sub-optimal Lorwyn Constructed decks to Friday Night Magic and pit them against the Type II decks people use there. I'll probably lose to the good players, but I bet I wouldn't go 0-4... at least 2 of my Lorwyn decks are probably good enough to do alright at a local tournament (where the competition isn't necessarily top notch).

Lorwyn is all about Tribes. Each color has about 2 tribes represented, and each tribe is represented in about 2 different colors. A quick search on Wikipedia will show a little chart indicating which tribes are in which colors, etc. Here's a quick rundown of the decks I made, more or less from worst to best...

There are a lot of Merfolk in Lorwyn, some of them sound pretty good such as Silvergill Adept, a 2/1 Merfolk creature for 1U (a pretty good start) which says When Silvergill Adept comes into play, draw a card. That's probably the best Merfolk ever printed. Aside from the Adept, the card that will probably make any successful Merfolk deck is Merrow Reejerey - another "All Merfolk get +1/+1" card like Lord of Atlantis, but this one also lets you tap or untap a permanent when it comes into play. At first I figured that ability would likely be used to tap blockers (and indeed, in limited play that's probably what happened) - but then I realized you could untap a land with that ability. In constructed play that's likely going to be a popular use of the card... it allows Merfolk to be played with a rebate, meaning you could play them out faster, or you could play Merfolk and still keep counterspell mana untapped.

This particular pile of Merfolk I put together doesn't seem particularly good - it's just a mess of Merfolk with 3 on the high end of the mana curve, and splashing Oblivion Ring and Nameless Inversion - 2 of the best removal cards in the set. As an experiment I replaced a few lands with Wanderer's Twig, a 1cc artifact which you can sac to get a basic land into your hand. I'm not sure if I like it or not, but I figure it's nearly as good as a land as long as you have 1 land already, and it thins land out of your deck so you don't draw it. On the down side, it's slow.

There exists a 6cc Merfolk that does something like "Whenever ~this deals combat damage to a player, take an additional turn after this one." It seems like there should be a way to take advantage of that in a control style deck and basically take infinite turns. However it does require that you have at least 1 Merfolk in play when you play that guy... I don't think he'd fit in this "super low casting cost" version of a Merfolk deck, but maybe in a more regular one. Today I was actually thinking there could be a Green/Blue deck with a lot of Changelings in it which runs the Time Walk Merfolk (and of course, Silvergill Adept) - it could also use the Shapeshifter guy which changes any Changeling creature into a copy of any creature on the board, so once the Time Walk guy is in play, you could theoretically be attacking with several of them.

Current decklist:
14 Island
4 Vivid Creek
3 Wanderwine Hub
4 Wanderer's Twig
2 Runed Stalactite
4 Ponder
4 Tideshaper Mystic
4 Silvergill Adept
4 Deeptread Merrow
3 Nameless Inversion
2 Merrow Reejerey (should be 4)
4 Paperfin Rascal (should be 2, or none)
4 Oblivion Ring
4 Faerie Trickery

The Giant Package
Aside from an amusing name, there's a subset of Giant cards that strikes me as a good, solid base of a deck. There's a "package" of about 10 cards that could comprise part of a deck - 4x Blind Spot Giant, 3x Thundercloud Shaman, and 2-3x Giant's Ire. Along with these there are some staple red removal spells (Tarfire and Lash Out) which are obvious for just about any deck with Mountains. And the common red Free Agent (Fire-Belly Changeling) is a pretty good deal for the casting cost, so he should probably be in the deck as well. I hadn't thought about the bigger Free Agent (4cc, Haste, Champion a creature), but I suppose that wouldn't be bad either.

I initially wanted to try this package with some of the Kithkin white weenies, as the Greatheart guy synergizes well with the Giants, the Runed Stalactite would help the 2 teams play nice, and White means Oblivion Ring. My first attempt may have leaned too far toward the Kithkin White Weenie side though, as the new White Knight (Knight of Meadowgrain) and the Crusade on Wheels (Wizened Cenn) both require WW to cast, which probably wants a mono-W land base, or at least doesn't go well with a deck that would like to case Blind Spot on turn 3. My second attempt was more an attempt at forcing as much direct damage on my opponent as possible by combining with Black. Adding a few Goblin spells - Mudbutton Torchrunner, Nameless Inversion, Boggart Harbinger, and Fodder Launch) might be the key to a really fast and dangerous deck, but I doubt it. Giant's Ire + Fodder Launch does bring a lot of burn to the a table already littered with Tarfire and Moonglove Extract, and the Torchrunner acts as either direct damage or creature D that the opponent really can't do much about.

In any case, I think the key card in the Giant Package is not the 3 casting cost 4/3 creature, but the 5cc 4/4 Wrath of God. Thundercloud Shaman is the only reason I really want to play Giants at all.

Current decklist:
16 Mountain
5 Swamp
3 Auntie's Hovel
4 Tarfire
3 Lash Out
2 Nameless Inversion
4 Fire-Belly Changeling
4 Blind-Spot Giant
4 Boggart Harbinger
4 Mudbutton Torchrunner
4 Moonglave Extract
2 Giant's Ire
2 Fodder Launch
3 Thundercloud Shaman

Kithkin WW
Some of the more attractive cards in the set are white and cost 2 or 3 mana. The most notable of them might be Knight of Meadowgrain and Oblivion Ring. I'm personally a fan of Kithkin Greatheart as well, but that may be because I also like Runed Stalactite, and attacking for 4 with 1 creature on turn 3 seems like a good deal. The rest of the deck doesn't seem as stellar - Neck Snap is effective against those nasty fatties or 3/3 Deathtouch elves, but it costs a lot of mana. I chose it over Crib Swap because (a) it doesn't leave a blocker, and (b) I actually didn't have any Crib Swaps on me when I made the deck. I seem to put Moonglave Extract into just about every deck I build, but I'm not sure if the 3cc price tag is really worth it - in a creature rush deck I think you could do worse for creature D. Of course the Kithkin weenie deck will be using the new Savannah Lions (Goldmeadow Stalwart) and the Crusade (Wizened Cenn, but the creature options after that are questionable. I'm trying Kinsbaile Skirmisher in the first draft, and a couple Avian Changelings - mostly because they are Free Agents and therefore immune to the Elf Terror (and nice to play after Greatheart), and because I liked them a lot in Sealed Deck. Yes, I realize that's a bad reason to use a card in a constructed format. Finally, Surge of Thoughtweft seems a natural to go in the deck, but in the end maybe that Kithkin Militia enchantment might be better.

Current decklist:
22 Plains (too many?)
3 Runed Stalactite
4 Glodmeadow Stalwart
4 Knight of Meadowgrain
3 Wizened Cenn (4 if I had them)
4 Kithkin Greatheart
3 Kinsbaile Skirmisher
3 Surge of Thoughtweft
3 Avian Changeling
4 Moonglave Extract
4 Oblivion Ring
3 Neck Snap

G/B Elves
Green/Black is probably one of the best decks I can think of. Outside of Oblivion Ring, Black has the best creature D in the set - Nameless Inversion can be tutored for with any Harbinger, Eyeblight's Ending flat out kills anything except Elves and Changelings, no matter how big, and Shriekmaw kills just about anything the Elf Terror doesn't - and it leaves a 3/2 creature in play! Green's creatures are amazing, and this time even more than usual they work together really well. Initially there were Fertile Grounds in the deck, and between them and the Leaf Gliders, one could easily play a turn 3 3/3 that makes Elf tokens, or 5/5 that makes Wolf tokens. Since then I dropped the enchantments in favor of more good creatures. With the potential for so many elves in play, the Jagged-Scar Archers seem like a good deal at 3 mana. Wrens Run Vanquisher is a powerhouse on turn 2, and bombs like Wren's Run Packmaster and Vigor seem to fit well in the deck. At the pre-release I opened 2 of those legends which make your opponent discard at random and put an elf into play every turn - seems like they should go right in the deck, but as yet they're not in there (I forgot!) Finally, there are 2 cards which I'm trying out in the deck which I think are pretty solid... Final Revels can be a Wrath of God in a match against Goblins or Kithkin (or other Elves!), even if some of my creatures are susceptible. The fact that it can turn into a finisher if I happen to have a number of Elves/Wolves in play I think makes it definitely worth playing. At the moment I only have 1, but I think I'd like to go to 2 at least. The other card I'm trying out, which I think I'm going to really like in general even if not in this deck, is Hoarder's Greed. A deck like this doesn't mind drawing cards, and if you win 1 clash then it goes from being an "OK card drawer" to a "really good hand refill". Anything more than that just gets better, with the slim possibility that you'll be in a situation where you effectively kill yourself by playing it. I bet that'll be rare though.

Current decklist:
13 Forest
7 Swamp
4 [B/G dualland]
4 Nameless Inversion
4 Leaf Glider
4 Wren's Run Vanquisher
3 Woodland Changeling
3 Jagged-Scar Archers
2 Elvish Harbinger
2 Eyeblight's Ending
3 Moonglove Extract
3 Lys Alana Huntmaster
2 Wren's Run Packmaster
2 Hoarder's Greed
2 Shriekmaw
1 Final Revels
1 Vigor

And, saving the best for last...
[This post is still under construction, I will come back and finish with what I think is probably the best deck idea to come out of lorwyn]